Tag Archives: children

Undiluted breathing

28 Mar

I went to set up coffee at work today and it was quiet – no stretching out to meet and greet and welcome a new person.

But I offered to clean up the coffee afterwards. This morning there was some confusion and no one knew who was setting up, so instead everyone from our section of the college turned up to set it up. Or so it seemed.

It is a beautiful summer’s day today – despite it being spring – as if Summer couldn’t wait and asked for a house swap with Spring for half a week. So while Summer’s in residence, the British become colourful and ridiculously happy. They forget about these days of sunshine for the rest of the year. Sun?! Really?

But when she’s here, suddenly there is free time in the middle of a work day. Suddenly they want to smile at you even through your sunglasses. Suddenly it’s like someone took a sharp, serrated meat knife and scored through a cloud sheet in front of you and of them. And the awkward discovery of life just in front of you that you hadn’t noticed happens. Awkward but happy. You smile.

But inside the Wycliffe College staff room, there wasn’t a terrible hurry to rip any sheets apart.

And as I cleared away the dishes, an older gentleman – I’d met him before and recognised his friendly, unashamed Northern brogue – put his hand on my back while the last people left. Unusual in an Oxford college at a staff rendez-vous, but er I am not immune to charm…

He thanked me for helping clear up. Everyone seemed quite surprised and amusingly thankful at someone doing it off the rota – but the only other place I’ve ‘done’ coffee or tea for a group is at church. And there I’m not thinking about a rota… usually only about how to hide my face from socialising when I need to. *Confession alert. Memo for later*

QED Once I’m there, I love ‘doing’ coffee or tea. It hides your face almost as much as leading worship or standing up front does. *Definitely memo for later*

“And if you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today,” he said…

I hadn’t been wondering. I’d noticed, that’s all. But I straightened up from the coffee pots.

“If you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today, it’s because an ex-student is having a still-born this morning.”  

And there was community and love. Ripped open cloud sheets by the sun, with healing in his wings.

She had been a student and had worked there. Her mother had flown from the US to be with her when she’d heard what was happening.

There were a few things that crossed my mind. That I wanted the ‘still-born’ to be called a child or a little girl or boy. That I wanted to tell him to go and visit if he needed to – the coffee pots and work would survive. But he told me people had gone, and more people would go. And I asked for her name and I wanted to pray for her.

I cannot imagine the years of pain, of unfinished story that an unborn or a still-born child must bring. About as many years of joy as he or she does, I suspect, knowing if you do that they live in the arms of a bigger, greater Parent than we will ever be.

I’ve admired mothers and fathers who have loved their children through life and death. I am in awe of them when they see that joy – I don’t know if I would be able to.

In my mind, I have this picture. The babe in the womb takes oxygen from the bloodstream. She’s not ready yet for O2 straight. We’re not ready yet for the physical presence and glory of God straight. Not all the time anyway. But then those babies are, those people are. They’re breathing it in already and to us, it must bring joy in the rain.


Easter is not far.


I don’t want to go outside

23 Jun

My shoulders tensed slightly in anticipation of the coming drama. It had been played out enough times before for me to know the script… *Johnny would fist his hands, and tauten his muscles… a plump, little slouched figure standing in what my bodybuilding friend would call the crab pose! I loved working with these kids. It was a special class in vacation Bible school. Special because its number was fewer, and the challenge different. And somehow, year after year I got slotted with these kids.

I had little or no training. I was an undergrad, or starting, or finishing. So I don’t know why except that I did.

I knew the routine too. We would tell them once, twice… usually a couple more times. It seemed like the same tone would work, because it was familiar.

Johnny, go outside and play. It’s recess!

NO. Johnny was NOT going anywhere. Uh uh. He stubbornly refused to go get the snacks and drink the church provided for every child, he refused to play running-and-catching or any other game. He refused to play with me either. He sat on the black and white triangle-squares of marble that tiled the floor of the side altar. It wasn’t the aisle – it was a little chapel to the side with an enclosed seating area that made it easy for us to keep the church’s very youngest members.

I took in a deep breath and said it again:

Johnny, go outside and play. I nudged him this time.

And I went over the routine, familiar, slow and dreading a tantrum.

It didn’t come. Instead, Johnny, still with his chubby arms flexed and taut, lifted his head a little and asked:


Stumbling a little, I explained: It’s recess. Go outside – as if the higher my voice, the more sense it made – and play with your friends.

I stressed the friends; I hoped it would be incentive.

Don’t you want to play with your friends?

He shook his head and I was giving up because it appeared that he understood and he had made his choice. Anyway, the food was on a little paper plate and one of the older kids had brought it to us, at my request.

But Johnny wasn’t finished with me. He had an answer to my most recent question.

But – but Jesus is my friend.

My tears were quick. It was what we had been learning after all – that He is our friend. Not a stranger, not just a distant God but – and I had told them – that He was really everything our hearts could desire, the bestest friend, and He didn’t need telling twice about anything we wanted or that hurt us or excited us. And He absolutely LOVED spending time with us – wouldn’t you? If you loved someone? And they’d all nodded their heads – wisely, dutifully.

Afterwards, I did cry. With my friends, in the cathedral’s garden after the children left. Johnny was minimally verbal but very aware of the most important lesson. And he seemed to talk quite well with the holy Spirit.

Sometimes I forget.

I want to go outside.

I want to leave the altar, shut the door on it, put my shoes back on and play the games.

I don’t remember my best friend – and he really is my best friend. And father, and lover and everything. And I am ridiculously lame about it showing it.

I want to fellowship with the church, and forget about the one we worship, and why we’re one.

I want to pursue his ministry – and I forget to pursue Him.

Or let Him pursue me.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  
I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.

Churched Christianity

24 Mar

This happened several days ago. She told me I was getting old. For certain things in life… Most of my friends in the workplace and at university were/are older than I. I am older than her by a year. Everyone in the course last year that I want to join next year was four years older than I, at least. I say these things not to defend myself. My first reaction – like yours – was to wince and nod. It was to accept the constraints. I do think I am getting old. And I know with another part of me that that is untrue. There is a difference between realism and this willingness to believe the least of yourself. But it hurt to hear it because most other people outside of church do not think so. Most of my friends don’t normally share this view either!

But I have a pretty convenient system of half-forgiving things and forgetting about them – I mean things interfere less with your to-do list that way. I don’t know if ‘forgiving’ is the right word or if there is such a thing as half-forgiveness either 😉 I mean, what I did was basically be ungracious in my own mind.

I simply decided to think this friend was perhaps not as mature as I was, had different definitions about culture and society than I did, had different constraints on what it was to be a woman and different ideas about “having life and having it to the full”. ← That’s all. All beautiful things to have, and all rather easy for me to think and not remember this little commandment.

Ah but look at the new NIV’s rendition of this, which sometimes – some very few times in my life – does make sense.

I think it does especially for people who are used to considering themselves below everyone else, less than average, less than ideal, not anyone’s idea of beautiful… So many women I know do this. I know some men do too, but I don’t know enough who will tell me to say ‘so many men’ 😉 We forget how much God has planned for us and we cut ourselves short. We imagine we’re incomplete without that house or that car or that husband.

We accept the constraints that people give us.

What is horrible about all this is that nowhere does it grow as much as it does in the church. We live in accordance with the church, not God.

We worry about how ‘churched’ we look and are. Our witness fails to be about God’s calling on our lives.

NO – I was not equating a husband, a car and a house but I am trying to point out that we do equate them. To often. As if everything in life is about planned acquisition, the next step, moving on, the natural stages.

Who gave us natural stages? Not God. Not really. Isaac was born well beyond natural, people laughed at Noah’s idea of building a home, Eli’s sons didn’t pick up on the whole dynastic paradigm of churches today… they went pretty wrong and God saw it, unlike our churches… Jonathan would rather have put his life in danger, let God’s purposes be fulfilled than be his father’s son. David chose to follow God out of the expected life of Jesse’s son, out of his sheep and his music, to building up a nation that needed it.

In my generally three-cornered conversations, this was one of the times I managed to stop and listen to God and to be honest with my friend. To be more gracious. Oh – that does not come naturally for yours truly as it does for her friends 🙂 ! Sigh. I told her we were only too old/frumpy/inadequate/whatever other excuse for some ‘Christians’ – it was the saddest thing I had to say. She agreed. Because, of course, it’s not ‘good’ to want more, it’s not ‘good’ to want to change the world, it’s not ‘good’ to be loud about poverty and homelessness and illiteracy and oppression, and it’s not ‘good’ to be discontent with wrong and injustice… Oh, discontent is sin… of course.

Think again. Pray. Again.

These ideas we have about a person’s possibility in the world – they come from a limited idea of what God can do.

You know that willingness to believe the least of yourself? It sounds to God like you’re believing the least of Him. And He’s fighting for you because he thinks





An honest letter…

12 Mar
Haha, today I have a treat for you 🙂 This is so cute, it needs not much explanation besides! This is a letter in our First Grade Writing Workshop, when we were writing to an audience… from a 6-year-old girl to a 6-year-old-boy. But doesn’t it shock you just a little?!?!1st grade, relationships, relationship, ESL, postbox, boy girl, girl boy, writing, workshop, letter, love letter, writing workshop, grade 1, honesty, culture, parenthood, too young, Korean restaurant, relationship, relationships, i like you, love,

Early Start!

Justin was grossed out, needless to say, as boys generally are. Doofuses 😉 Next week, she told him she loved him. He was her valentine. (Laughing yet?)

Cue everyone: Aaaaawww

A couple of weeks later Yeobin kissed another boy’s hand, although she still likes Justin… I assume because of all those bright smiles (!)…

Now – shocked much?!?!


Beauty is

17 Feb

Today, I am left without words.

Beauty is having a child run after you because she wants to hold your hand.

Beauty is having a child – a different child from a different home – ask you wonderingly if you would still play with him. Broken beauty, but beauty.

Beauty is an animal who trusts you so completely that she will sigh her frustration into the hollow of your hand, as she lays her head there, and licks you, while the doctor administers painful treatment.

Beauty is knowing that that is what God wants us to be like with him.

Beauty is a train ride through Snowdonia, knowing that my help comes from the Lord who holds the cattle on a thousand hills – and hearing this God remind you in his whispers.

Beauty is telling a friend about a God-encounter and hearing her words echo your thoughts.

Beauty is when someone knows you’re sad when you’re laughing, and no one else knows.

Beauty is the homeless man who will smile at me every time I pass outside the store he frequents. Beauty is when he recognises you and you smile back.

Beauty is when you write a kind email, an email hoping for a coffee one of these days, to someone who has slighted you.

Beauty is letting go of the hurts you’d forgotten you remembered, until God asked you to let them go. Beauty is knowing that an apology might never come, but that you are hearing God’s voice in the situation.

Beauty is pain that nobody else knows you’re holding until suddenly God looks you in the eye and tells you ‘I know it hurts. And I know how much’. Beauty is when you believe that and share the fellowship of his suffering in the smallest measure, that he may grow you into his image in disproportionate recompense.

Beauty is when it draws you closer to the sanctity of the cross and people know you’ve been with Jesus.

Beauty is when someone on a random protest day, in the central square on the shopping street, walks up to you and asks if you are Christian. Then beauty is when you nod and they say they saw it.

Beauty is an old friend’s unexpected call or email.

Beauty is a new friend you haven’t yet made decides to ask you to listen and pray.

Beauty is when God sees the ugliness and decides to use it. Like me.

Today, I am in awe of this beauty. I know His name. And all I can bring myself do is to curl up into him and say one thing. If my words fail, and I choke up inadequately, then I can look at the face I know. And let Him look on as I confess it.

This: Jesus, I am so in love with you.


God, Exods 15, Exodus, Bible, beautiful God, awesome God, God is awesome, love God, love of God, Jesus, Christ, Father, Holy Spirit, miracles, wonders, Snowdonia, faith, worship, love, beauty, beautiful

From the recess frontlines

14 Feb

Student A: Ms Writerooooooooo, why didn’t you come yesterday?

Writeroo: Erm, I was… (*thinks and rapidly does a back-flip from mere illness*) I turned into an ogre for one day… Y’know? So I had to stay home.

Student A: Oh. *thinks* Okay.

Student B: Why didn’t you come? Where were you?

Writeroo: I erm turned into an ogre yesterday (*by now is quite shameful of the deception of unsuspecting children but is again sure she will not be taken seriously*)

Student B: Oh *walks away*

Student B: *returns* What’s an ogre?

Writeroo’s friend: Seen Shrek?

Student B: Uh, huh – yeah.

Writeroo’s friend: Like Shrek and Fiona – ogre. She became an ogre yesterday.

Student B: Ooooh, cool! *walks away*

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